Does sugar make you stupid? Study suggests it sabotages learning and memory
‧Fructose is commonly added to processed foods such as soft drinks
‧It was found to hamper memory and slow brain activity
Too much sugar could be making you stupid, according to researchers.
The suggestion follows tests in the laboratory comparing high-fructose corn syrup, which is six times sweeter than cane sugar and a common ingredient in processed foods, with omega-3 fatty acids, known to aid memory and learning.
In an experiment on rats, one group had a sugary diet for six weeks and another was fed healthily.
At the start of the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, the University of California team tested how well the rats navigated a maze – placing landmarks to help them learn the way.
Six weeks later, the researchers tested the rats’ ability to recall the route.
Study co-author Professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla said the rats fed just a sugary diet were slower and their brains had declined.
He said: 'Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.
However, the good news is that eating nuts and fish such as salmon can counteract this disruption.
'Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,' said Prof Gomez-Pinilla. 'Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimise the damage.'
While earlier research has revealed how fructose harms the body through its role in diabetes, obesity and fatty liver, this study is the first to uncover how the sweetener influences the brain.
The researchers were studying the impact of high-fructose corn syrup on rats, who have similar brain chemistry to humans.